In his previous films, Bhandarkar’s understanding of the fashion world remained clichéd. Even in the lesser-seen Traffic Signal, Bobby Darling over-played the hyper, gay, comic designer.
In Fashion too, his gaze remains artificial; exploitative, ready to milk any bit of juicy news. And sadly, this has happened at the cost of this industry’s misrepresentation. The promos tell you all, and frankly are far more absorbing that the three hour-plus film.
Priyanka Chopra plays Meghna, a small town beauty queen who dreams of walking the ramp as a supermodel. Parents defied and suitcase packed, she moves to Mumbai.
From then on, her story of struggle is a laugh. She makes friends with an assistant designer who puts her on to a casting agent, who supplies models to parties for the glamour quotient. She meets the right people who are immediately impressed by her spunk and confidence and sooner than later, she is crowned the new face of Panache, a coveted company that rules the fashion business.
The owner Abhijeet Sareen (Arbaaz Khan, miscast) is responsible for Meghna replacing the earlier model Shonali (Kangana). Meghna’s success in an extraordinarily short span of time does her in. She confuses confidence with arrogance and enjoys her new-found celebrity, much like her predecessor.
Unfortunately, she is following Shonali’s path in more ways than one. The girl who didn’t smoke or drink is now hooked on to both, and is partying away to cope with her dwindling career. Then on, the story takes several detours and finally tells us what we predict anyway.
But through their journey, not once does Bhandarkar manage to whole-heartedly involve us in the life of his characters. We remain unmoved right till the end.
For his two central characters Meghna and Shonali, Bhandarkar borrows heavily from various sources. The disclaimer at the beginning of the film tells us that all the characters are fictitious, but that’s clearly debatable. Shonali’s downward spiral leading her to listlessly roam the streets is directly copied from news reports of ex-model Geetanjali Nagpal; and Priyanka Chopra losing herself, going to rehab, and coming back seems inspired by Lakme model Shivani Kapur’s story.
Then again, there is heavy inspiration taken from the Angelina Jolie-starrer Gia, a dull film in any case. He also brings in the wardrobe malfunction that happened a couple of years ago.
When bored through the film, you can play spot-a-celebrity. The film is teeming with fashion folks like Achala Sachdev, Alecia Raut and Jesse Randhawa and celebs like Karan Johar and Prahlad Kakkar. Bhandarkar’s also wickedly hinted at known personalities – he shows a gay designer who goes around asking for favours from struggling male models and a hyper (also gay, naturally) Bollywood top designer.
Technically, the film falls flat. Priyanka Chopra’s make-up is shockingly poor. Kangana really ought to do something about her diction. But still, both the actors have an interesting ground to play on and do a great job portraying their complex characters. Mugdha Godse and Arjan Bajwa have an easy screen presence. Kitu Gidwani plays the super-professional modeling agency head perfectly.
Some of the details strike you as accurate like the nervous models sipping wine before a show and the chaos in the green-room. The editing should have cut several portions to make the film tighter and more absorbing. Music by Salim-Sulaiman is lovely. Styling is alright, nothing path-breaking.
The story-telling is ineffective: it takes too long for the director to establish his premise, and once we know the context of the story, it turns stagnant. Perhaps Bhandarkar thought he needn’t worry as long as he had semi-clad models strutting on the ramp for the hundredth time.
Sadly, Fashion only talks about how the industry supposedly ruins the life of young girls (the male models are completely capable of handling success, it seems). It’s a film titled `fashion’ but doesn’t once talk about the clothes! The talent, creativity, and passion for work, which forms a central part of the industry. The film could have given the fashion industry much more credit, than just portraying them as a brainless bunch that’s only busy putting up fashion shows.
This is just a film that sadly reconfirms moralistic misconceptions most people hold against the fashion industry. And against an ambitious woman who wants to make it big in the glamour world. When the character of Meghna falls flat, the chauvinistic can almost say we told you so. Thankfully, she does pick herself up.
Go for Fashion if you’re willing to endure a superficial take on the lives of models and a dumbed down version of the workings of the fashion industry, for the sparkling performances.
Verdict: Two stars